Jan. 15, 2018
By Tevy Pilc
B’nai Brith Canada
TORONTO – It’s a simple message: No matter how bleak or even inhumane your surroundings are, one must have faith in the existence and presence of good people and love will overcome.
This was the message of Holocaust survivor Faigie Schmidt Libman, who spoke to a Grade 11 class of 30 at Earl Haig Secondary School in Toronto recently. For more than an hour, Faigie shared the horrors she and her family endured during the Shoah. With precise detail, she described life in several labour and concentration camps in Nazi-occupied territories, including the Kovno Ghetto and Stutthof concentration camp.
Faigie’s visit followed one by Irene Kurtz, who spoke to more than 300 students and faculty at Middlefield Collegiate Institute in Markham, Ont. in November. The visit was arranged to coincide with Ontario’s mandatory Holocaust education, which is taught in Grade 10 History.
For many students, this was the first time in their lives they heard from a #Holocaust survivor, let alone be exposed to some sort of Holocaust education. https://t.co/F5RBZLy0Mt pic.twitter.com/rOi0i1xcLc
— B'nai Brith Canada (@bnaibrithcanada) November 16, 2017
The visits were part of B’nai Brith Canada’s free Holocaust education program, which aims to connect survivors with high school students across Canada. Teacher Jamie Cheslo said having Faigie at his class was a match made in heaven. Cheslo’s course is called “Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.”
Faigie’s message of faith was illustrated in her acknowledgement and immense gratitude to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. She spoke of a nurse at a Stutthof hospital who moved her from bed to bed to avoid a certain death sentence from Nazi doctors due to the severity of her sickness at the time. This gave Faigie the time she needed to get healthy and return to the barracks.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, we’re all human beings,” Faigie said. “It’s how I stay optimistic, knowing and believing in humanity and the kindness of strangers. It’s important to know that people are wonderful no matter where you’re from.”
Despite relaying the suffering she endured to various audiences over the years, Faigie is adamant about sharing her experience with others.
“As long as I can still remember, I’ll talk about it,” Faigie told a captivated classroom. “You are my witnesses, you are still here and we have to continue to tell these stories.”
For more information about B’nai Brith Canada’s Holocaust Education program, including requests for survivors to speak at schools, please contact Robin Grossman at [email protected] or visit bnaibrith.ca/holocausteducation.